The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) and the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (CPCI), two of three North American groups representing the precast and prestressed concrete industry, continue their efforts to inform and educate, prepare members for new demands, and to address labour shortages.
NPCA president Ty Gable says the industry has rebounded well from the recession that began in 2008, with a strong year in 2015, a good year so far for 2016, and expectations for even greater improvement in 2017. While this is all good news, he says it also creates challenges. “As work ramps up it becomes difficult to find good people, because there is more competition for the sharp, young people looking for future careers.”
Gable says the NPCA’s Precast University provides an answer. Here, courses offer students a career path within the industry, beginning on the production floor and running right through to upper management. Starting with basic concrete technology, they are designed to teach students to become experts at production. In the end, graduates receive certification as a master precaster.
“We just graduated our largest class of master precasters which tells me this program is attractive as a career path,” Gable said. “We have a lot of closely held, family owned companies. It is important to continue to develop the next generation so these business can continue to thrive under the direction of qualified people.”
Precast University is also currently developing new leadership training programs. Together, these offerings will ensure people learn from the ground up and become proficient in all aspects of the business.
CPCI has a mission to expand the knowledge of students by disseminating ideas and information about the design, applications, manufacturing and use of precast concrete. Ariane Sabourin, CPCI’s marketing manager, says CPCI is offering an annual scholarship program for students in Civil Engineering and Civil Technology to support continuous learning and education within the industry. “We are also excited to announce a new scholarship available for Architecture and Architectural Technology Students this year.”
Sabourin says CPCI and its members also host National Precast Day. CPCI’s National Precast Day is an open plant tour of various precast concrete manufacturing facilities in Canada. The open houses effectively demonstrate how precast is manufactured under rigorous quality controls and shows the many sustainable benefits of building with precast concrete. In the past 17 years, National Precast Day has hosted more than 40,000 participants. “We are in discussions with PCI and NPCA to expand National Precast Day to the United States and look forward to working with our partners to grow this important event.”
Gable says the NPCA also is working with members to meet the new stringent requirements for crane operators issued by the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration to take effect in November 2017. “We’re providing both training and conducting certification exams to ensure our members can meet the deadline.”
In 2016, the North American Precast Concrete associations worked together with ASTM International and the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute to release third-party verified EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) in three key precast concrete product categories. The EPDs provide comprehensive, uniform, and transparent details about a product’s composition and environmental impact throughout its lifecycle. EPDs are now available for each of the three main categories: Architectural and insulated wall panels, structural precast concrete products, and underground precast concrete products.
Brian Hall, CPCI’s managing director, says that the EPDs will allow architects, engineers, building owners, and other specifiers to better understand the environmental impacts of precast and prestressed concrete products. “In order to educate our audiences on the benefits of EPDs, how they can be used and how they can help earn points in LEED V4, NPCA, PCI and CPCI are also offering webinars for architects, engineers and construction professionals.”
Gable says helping members prepare and educate themselves also includes providing the latest available information, including white papers and other materials on topics ranging from new technologies to the latest in fiber research through the association’s website because “knowledge is power.”
“We’re excited about the state of the economy and the improvements we see coming. We are prepared for and well equipped to help our members meet the challenges this will involve,” says Gable.
NPCA and CPCI are collaborating with other industry specific associations and partnering with PCI (Precast/ Prestressed Concrete Institute) and American Concrete Pipe Association to unify messages around quality and marketing.
“CPCI, NPCA and PCI are the leading technical resources (Body of Knowledge (BOK)) for the precast concrete industry in North America. From this BOK, building codes, design guides, educational programs, certification, sustainability programs, and new research ideas are derived,” says Hall.
For more information about NPCA, visit precast.org and for information about CPCI, visit: www.cpci.ca. More information about CPCI’s annual scholarship program is available at http://www.cpci.ca/en/resources/academic.
Image: The CPCI website